What to see in Rome in 1 day

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Pau Monfort
@paumonfort
SOURCES CONSULTED:

wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

Author and references

What to see in Rome in 1 day: the itinerary

 “Rome wasn't built in a day”, but if you only have one day left… I'll help you make the most of it! (If you have 3, find all the info in the article What to see in Rome in 3 days).

You often ask me for advice on Rome, my incredible hometown, and it is always difficult for me to think about what you cannot miss the first time you go there, especially if you have little time available.  



It may be the classic way of saying, but Rome is truly an open-air museum, like no other city in the world. Strolling through Rome means taking a leap into the past, first in Roman times, then in the Middle Ages, in the Renaissance, in the shack and ... to a lesser extent, in the modern era. A city that, for better or for worse, has remained unchanged over the centuries, full of contrasts, chaotic, noisy, but true and sincere like few others. 

In order not to miss what to see in Rome in 1 day, I propose you an itinerary that starts at dawn and ends late in the evening, is more or less 7/8 km long that you will have to walk. You are ready? (in Rome, forget to use the bus or metro, it could take twice as long and you would miss out on many wonderful things!). 

  • Free Tour of Rome
  • Free Evening Tour of Rome and its mysteries
  • Free Tour of the Baroque churches of Rome

1st stage: sunrise on the Janiculum

A must for all Romans but not only. You come as teenagers with your boyfriend, on the 1st of the year after the New Year's ballad, but every occasion is good to see Rome light up in red with the first rays of the sun that rises right there, behind the Roman castles . I don't know how many times I've been there! The appointment is in piazzale Giuseppe Garibaldi, the same square on the Janiculum where the famous one is placed Cannon which, since 1904, has been firing blanks every day at exactly noon. 



2nd stop: St. Peter's and the Vatican Museums

From here, in about 20 ', you will arrive in the San Pietro area. After an invigorating breakfast in a bar in the medieval alleys of Borgo Pio, enter the (now 2nd) largest basilica in the world. Saint Peter it is immense and, regardless of your religious faith, literally takes your breath away. Among others, Bramante and Raphael contributed to its construction, but it is considered above all the masterpiece of Michelangelo who conceived the dome and the moving “Pietà” (which you will find at the very beginning of the right aisle). Piazza San Pietro, with the magnificent colonnade designed by Bernini, is no exception. From there, move to the Vatican Museums: advance ticket booking is a must if you do not want to queue for hours (you can easily do it online on the Museums website). It is a shame to see the Vatican Museums in a few hours (an in-depth visit would take at least 2 days!), But I believe that one cannot ignore the view of the Sistine Chapel and Raphael's rooms. The Museums are very well organized, there are several marked itineraries for those who have little time and can see only the best of the collection. To optimize time, you can buy a ticket with priority entrance and a 2,5-hour tour from the Get Your Guide website (see box below). The so-called Raphael's rooms they constituted the private apartment of Pope Julius II and its walls were largely frescoed by Raphael, in fact: to say that they are beautiful is an understatement! But it is there Sistine Chapel that will literally leave you speechless. It is rightly considered one of the greatest masterpieces of humanity and, even if you have seen a thousand photos of its frescoes, finding it in front of your eyes will have a completely different effect. After the recent restoration which took 10 years, the liveliness of the original colors has returned to the frescoes. 



When you come out of there with your eyes still in the shape of a heart, you will also be hungry. Here I give you 2 possibilities: a lunch / brunch at La Veranda (the restaurant with a frescoed vault that can also be seen in Sorrentino's "La grande Bellezza", to be booked in advance) or a quicker meal based on Roman specialties: pizza by the slice and ice cream. Yes, I know that ice cream is everywhere in Italy, but in Rome, more than in other cities, there are really excellent ice cream parlors.  

3rd stage: Castel Sant'Angelo and the Ponte degli Angeli

Then head towards the Lungotevere and you will notice immediately Sant'Angelo castel and I could not fail to include it among the things to see in Rome in 1 day. Born as a mausoleum of Hadrian, in the sixth century it was transformed into a fortress for the popes and still today retains the famous "passetto", a secret passage that connects it to St. Peter's through which the popes could have taken refuge inside the fortress . You will not have the time, but if it ever happens to you at another time, enter and visit the museum that is located inside it and, above all, go to the terraces from which you can enjoy a magnificent view over the rooftops of Rome. Leave Castel Sant'Angelo by crossing the bridge of the Angels, named after the many sculptures of angels found there, all sculpted by Bernini's students. 

4th stop: Piazza Navona and the Pantheon

At the end of the bridge, take via dei Coronari to reach Piazza Navona. Needless to say, this square also has Roman origins and its name derives from the fact that it was flooded to allow for the conduct of mock naval battles. It housed the city's main market for at least 3 centuries and today hosts acrobats, painters, fortune tellers and other characters looking for tourists to catch. Don't miss the gorgeous fountain of the Four Rivers by Bernini and, immediately opposite, the church of Sant'Agnese in Agone designed by Borromini. 



From there go to my favorite square in Rome: piazza del Pantheon. The Pantheon is of a disarming beauty, both seen from inside and seen from outside; its dome is the greatest architectural work of ancient Rome and was even imitated by Michelangelo for the construction of the dome of St. Peter! Initially a Roman temple, it was consecrated as a church in 609 AD and inside you will find the imposing tombs of Vittorio Emanuele II, Umberto I and Raphael. Immediately behind Piazza del Pantheon go to visit too Piazza della Minerva with the famous statue ofbaby elephant (an original Egyptian obelisk carried on the shoulder by a white marble elephant) and the Church of S. Maria Sopra Minerva which preserves some superb frescoes by Filippino Lippi and a sculpture by Michelangelo. In this area there are also the 2 best and most famous bars / coffee roasters in Rome: the Casa del Caffè Coppa d'Oro and Sant'Eustachio coffee, absolutely not to be missed! If you do this itinerary in summer, instead of the classic espresso, a coffee granita with cream is a must. 

5th stop: Piazza Colonna and the Trevi Fountain

Take via del Seminario to exit Piazza del Pantheon, pass in front of Montecitorio (which you will recognize very easily) to get to Piazza Colonna. In the center of the square you cannot fail to notice the beautiful one Antonine Column, 30 meters high, adorned with magnificent bas-reliefs that tell the battles waged against the Germanic tribes. From here, if you feel you still have a lot of strength in your legs, you can take a detour to visit Spanish Steps with the famous staircase, or go straight to reach Trevi Fountain. Made famous by Fellini in the film La Dolce Vita, this fountain is the largest and most extravagant in Rome. Set on the walls of a palace, the custom has it that you have to throw a coin into the fountain, strictly turned around, to make sure you return to Rome. Compared to the size of the fountain, the square is tiny and super crowded with tourists, but this ritual cannot be ignored. Actually the best time to see it would be late in the evening or at night, when it is beautifully lit (it has recently been restored and the white marble has returned to shine) and the square is deserted. 

6th stop: Piazza del Campidoglio and the Vittoriano

Return to Via del Corso and follow it up to Piazza Venezia, where the monumental will stand out before your eyes Victorian. Designed in 1885 to commemorate the unification of Italy, today it is dedicated to Unknown soldier. Climb up to the terrace at the top (the staircase is open from 9:30 to 17:30) to have a wonderful view of Rome, almost 360 degrees. From here move to the adjacent Campidoglio square, which houses the Municipality of Rome and the Capitoline Museums. The square and the buildings that overlook it were designed by Michelangelo and is rightly considered one of the most beautiful squares in Rome. Particularly focus on the magnificent pavement pattern. Exit the square taking Via di S. Pietro in Carcere (you will pass under the famous sculpture of the she-wolf suckling Romulus and Remus, symbol of the city) that will lead you directly to Via dei Fori Imperiali

7th stop: Roman Forum and Colosseum

Unfortunately you will not have time to enter the Roman Forum, but walking along Via dei Fori Imperiali you will still be able to get an idea of ​​what it could mean to live in Rome at the time of Caesar or Augustus. Starting from Piazza Venezia, the Trajan's Forum, with the magnificent column homonym, ei Trajan's Markets, an ancient version of modern shopping malls. The building has 3 floors and housed shops. I'm not sure why, but it's a place that continues to fascinate me a lot and I pass it every time I go back to Rome. Continuing always on the left side you will find the Forum of Augustus, Forum of Nerva, Forum of Vespasian and Forum of Caesar; built between 42 BC and 112 AD because the existing holes were no longer sufficient for the needs of the empire. Exactly opposite, on the other side of the street, you will see the heart of the ancient forum with the curia, the square of the forum and what remains of the most important administrative buildings of ancient Rome. As you get closer to the Colosseum you will not fail to notice, on the right, the imposing Basilica of Maxentius, which inspired all the architects of the Renaissance, including Michelangelo. It was the largest building in the forum, where business was handled and justice was administered. On the external walls of the basilica, stop and see the 4 large maps that describe the expansion of the Roman Empire up to 117 AD. Coliseum is right in front of you! The monument that most of all represents Rome as well as one of the most famous in the world. This gigantic amphitheater, where gladiators fought to the death and prisoners condemned to death fought against lions, continues to excite young and old since 80 AD, when it was inaugurated by the son of Vespasian. 

8th stage: sunset from the Orange Garden and dinner in Trastevere (or Testaccio)

Circumnavigate the Colosseum (stop and see the beautiful Arch of Constantine) and take via di San Gregorio until you reach the Circus Maximus. Do not expect anything special because there is almost nothing left of what was the largest stadium in Rome, you will see a large elliptical lawn and imagine that it could accommodate up to 200.000 spectators! 

Use your last strength to climb up to Orange Garden on the Aventine and enjoy one of the most beautiful sunsets in the city. If you find it open (closes at 19pm) enter the Basilica of Santa Sabina which is located exactly at the entrance to the garden. 

I close this itinerary with the things to see in Rome in 1 day with a nice meal. Tired but happy (at least hopefully) you will have definitely deserved an imperial dinner based on amatriciana or carbonara in Testaccio or Trastevere (both are located less than 1km from the garden exit). For the choice of the restaurant you can refer to the article Restaurants in Rome

If you liked this article, you might also be interested in these other articles I wrote about Rome:

  • What to see in Rome in 3 days
  • Unusual Rome: 10 particular places that few know
  • Alternative Rome: the coolest neighborhoods
  • Where to eat in Rome: the best typical trattorias
  • 10 farmhouses with swimming pool near Rome
  • The MAAM of Rome: when art is defended
  • What to see in Ostia: 1 day between Pasolini and the excavations of Ostia Antica
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